Story:The Shape Of The Nightmare To Come 50k section21

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Section 21: The Psychic Apocalypse, The Black Ships, and the Nex…Edit

The Death of the Emperor was a near-lethal blow to existence itself, more so than any living being could fully comprehend. When the Emperor's heart was pierced by that most foolish of traitors, his soul, scattered and insane, burst apart, flinging itself into the swirling maelstrom. The Warp washed into reality in a tidal flood, killing Terra. Similarly, reality, to a certain extent, washed into the warp. The great edifice, the link to the Webway forged by the Imperator, was smashed from its moorings in reality, and floundered in the madness sea. The living mesh that was the Webway writhed and convulsed, as the strand of reality tumbled through the warp. We shall come to this later…


The deepest depths of the warp were disturbed, and forces beyond reckoning or sanity, strove for the surface of their inverted emotion spherical realm. They burst the surface, turning inwards, and shattering like glass, as they envied and giggled and felt emotions only the most incomprehensible of xenos ever felt. A great blanketing numbness flooding inwards, spilling outwards as it pushed in parallel to the madness. Grim sanity spread like a glass plate, sliding over a churning mad sea. It was shattered in places, or melted, or any number of futile analogies. The Star Father was rousing, and the 'war'/migration/exodus, began in earnest.


It would be utterly impossible to explain what was happening in the warp accurately, thus I must drift into colourful analogy to continue.


Across all the realms of chaos, from the living rot-forests of Nurgle to the churning brass forges of the Lord of Rage, a great silver wall, solid and blank, was grinding, pushing aside the demonic realms like a plough through snow. The crystal maze of Tzeentch was shattered and ground to dust, then reformed, and was shattered anew. The rings of Slaanesh's inferno were breached, as the faceless, blade-winged angyls of the Star Father spread forth, one with the wall, yet apart from it.


At last, Khorne could take no more. A voice that could shatter continents resounded across the entire realm of chaos, plunging mountains into lava lakes, and pulverising daemon trees and devil-spawn. It was a call to war, as he rose from the Skull Throne, black sword of destruction clutched in his vast talons.


A billion billion daemons arose with him, from bloodthirsters, to blood crushers, and other, indescribable horrors. Legions of daemon princes, armoured with daemon-mail and blades of lethal effect, marched under banners of slaughtered skin and bloodied flesh.


Khorne himself besieged the great silver wall, pounding it with every weapon and devil he could. The wall constantly shattered, yet merely split into innumerable grinding walls, which ensnared the Blood God, who howled in frustration. The mindless Skarbrand dueled the Dominion itself, Malcador-angyl. Infinite energies flowed across the beings, as fire fought light, and bloody blade clashed with burnished nightmare-steel.


The walls continued, smashing aside even the formless waste, spearing through like a thunderbolt. Tzeentch, using every trick and scheme and power, misdirected and deceived the walls, splitting them and dividing them, as he hastily made alliances and dark pacts with his brothers and sisters. Guided by the babbling predictions of the Fateweaver, Tzeentch tricked and tracked the infinite enemy, and guided his enemy-allies against this true threat. The great game took on a new face.


Nurgle, advised by his brother, cast a bile-filled contagion, which tarnished the silver bastions, and allowed plague bearers and capering daemonettes to wriggle within the structure. Innumerable devils and monsters dueled the blank beings which glowed within, formless yet mighty and bleak. Nurgle, empowered by the despair of the losing battle, surged forth, resplendent and powerful. A morass of stinking flesh and foulness formed his bulk, and he sprouted rotten forests of decay in his slug-like wake, as he drew forth his cauldron, to personally pour its contents down the soul father's throat.


He boiled the silver wall aside, as his corruptive influence plunged through, into the Star Realm. Like a billion universes, stars and tranquil evening skies filled the bastion in all directions, and Nurgle himself had to form a bridge of corruption, just to cross the expanse. And there, at the centre of the spiral, stood the Star Father.


A thousand miles tall, the colossus glowed a blinding gold, and where his burning golden stare landed, corruption could not flourish, chaos became set. Trillions of souls stood, utterly frozen under the gaze of the Star Father, unthinking, unfeeling. One by one, the great being plucked them up, and broke them. He had no face, just a titanic golden crown, which enclosed his head, and blazed with internal fire.


Nurgle, undaunted, ploughed forth, like a living tide of filth. The blades of the Father smashed the daemon thing to the ground, and Nurgle's corrupted blades just held back the merciless force of the Star Father. Then, something even the Grandfather of Disease couldn't predict, occurred. Upon pinions of flayed and stagnant flesh, the angel of despair, Isha herself, appeared. Wriggling free of her chains, the Goddess wailed, howling in agony and misery, flickering tears of despair rattling against the Order God's impregnable armour. Over the eternity of imprisonment, she was quite insane, and such was Nurgle's influence, that she was bound to him eternally, in a marriage of abomination. He, the Star Father, paused, his voice a deep rumble, as glacial ice over rocks:


"OBEY!" he bawled, swatting Isha aside.


However, her intent was never to defeat him. Her freedom had attracted another being that lusted after her essence. Suddenly a dozen singing blades sank into the Armour of the Star Father, as the Prince of Pleasure, She Who Thirsts, slithered upwards to engage the monster. The Father wrestled the heinous goddess-god, venom, fire and blades darting and twisting beneath and above the combat, as god faced god. Nurgle became a vast swamp, ensnaring the titanic legs of the Star Father, with sucking, demonic mud.


Angyls poured from the walls and roofs, at the sight of the Star Father in distress, echoing him utterly, as they plunged into combat. Daemons wriggled from between the toes and talons of the battling chaos gods, intercepting the glowing beings, engaging in epic conflict.


The bastions advanced and retreated, as the other realms plunged over each other like tides on a beach, coming from all angles at once.


The three gods wrestled, but the Star Father was the stronger, and he beat them back, his voice a thunderous gale, as he cursed and bellowed at the hated foes. Whispers and confusing illusions assailed the Star Father, and saved Slaanesh and Nurgle, as Tzeentch worked his illusions and magics upon the God of Order. However, amazingly, the Star Father and his Angyls fought back all these endless foes. Their gold and silver light was as a torch to hay, as it burnt and scorched the daemons fiercely, flinging them backwards, filling their hearts with the dread of Order.


However, as they faltered, the final god descended. Smashing through the crystal roof of the bastions, Khorne leapt into the Star Realm. His first strike struck the helm of the Star Father, dealing him a deathly blow, and staggering the confused god. The second flurry of blows were parried desperately by the flaming golden blade of the Star Father. The five gods exchanged and traded blows for eternities upon eternities, destroying realms, only to remake them within instants. Daemons and Angyls wailed and bitterly fought, as they were plunged into oblivion again and again.


However, this war was one thing the Star Father could not control; it was chaotic. The chaos unleashed upon everything and everybody within the realm of the warp fought to the Primordial Annihilator's strengths. Chaos drove back order, and the Order God was cast down. Yet, such was his power, he could not be banished as daemons and spirits could be. He became a fixed, dreadful point in the ever-mad seas of souls.


Of course, this account above is merely an analogy, for the churning storm of abomination, which rippled throughout the warp, in all directions and chronologies, defies description and explanation. It snatched away the souls of almost all Astropaths, dragging them into the bodies of Angyls, to fight the incomprehensible war. It made the deep warp an impenetrable bastion of utter lunacy, destroying any vessels travelling through those routes. Only the shallows of the warp were safe now.


Of the Black Ships, many separate tragedies befell them. The Black Ships, vessels dedicated to rounding up psykers and transporting them to Terra, were suddenly made obsolete, as the Astronomicon spluttered, over the course of years, until it was nothing. Then Terra tumbled into hell, and madness took hold of the galaxy.


The Black Ships, crammed with psykers, that were about to enter the warp, suddenly were forced to pull away, their navigators going mad instantly. These ships became becalmed, trapped in the void, light-years from anywhere. Trapped in reality, psykers, driven insane and empowered by the churning warp, fought at their restraints and cells. The grim dark halls of the psyker ships became battlegrounds, where cold-hearted Storm Troopers and Sororitas engaged the gibbering hordes of psyker horrors. Soon these Black Ships became tombships, as their defenders engaged their failsafe devices, pumping cyanide and neuro-toxins throughout the vessels, mutually destroying both Imperial and monster equally.


They were the lucky ones.


Many of the Black Ships were trapped within the warp, as the guiding light faltered. Some were torn asunder instantly. Others became utterly lost in the warp, their navigators lost or executed. Some, believing they had re-discovered the Astronomicon, headed towards an area of deep warp where a golden light seemed to becalm the warp. These vessels disappeared, frozen forever in mid-action. The infant Star Child had ensnared them forever. Others crashed into driving hulks, fusing at the physical, and even spiritual, level. Their liberated cargo would then flee into the depths of the hulks, or else die, moaning silently, as their bodies fused painfully with the walls.


The most infamous example of a Black Ship through the warp, was that of the Tersis. Its tale is long, and, in some places, incomprehensible. Nevertheless, I shall endeavour to narrate their tale. 

The Tersis' Captain, as the Beacon of the Astronomicon vanished, ordered the ship to leave the warp immediately. The Navigator tried his best, wrestling his ship through the unimaginable tides and fluctuations, as things beyond understanding clashed and rolled within the madness. He approached the shallows. To his horror, however, there was no reality beyond, and they plunged back into the madness. They were lost! Lost forever! The Navigator soon began to descend into madness, and was replaced by his assistant. He was killed by his minder, with a bolt to the brain.


Battered by the tides and churning masses of maddening warpstuff, battering the Gellar field, the Tersis dived. Like a black dart they descended, upwards, into the surrounding deep warp. The engines bucked and hissed and crackled. Smoke and murderous vapours filled the cabins of the ship, incensing and driving the psykers beyond sanity. They launched all their psychic abilities against the cells and restraints, burning out their broken minds. The Sisters on board, led by Sister Superior Medeline, fought like legends, slaughtering and murdering the flaming witches wherever they found them. Stormtroopers barricaded all then on-cell chambers, barring the entrance of the mad warp-terrors. The actual ship's crew managed to be protected from the worst of the horrors. Every human chanted litanies of protection, and prayers to the Emperor.


The ship plummeted, faster and faster, and slower, as they ascended into the deepness of the most dark and unbound warp depths. The walls began to bleed, as gibbering things shoved their way into their reality bubble. Talons and tentacles, everywhere. Hellguns glowed white hot, such was their rate of fire. Bolters barked and roared, blasting chunks of masonry and maggot-ridden flesh-architecture, as power weapons and holy objects smashed apart devil-faced daemons, and scuttled semi-humanoids and psyker monsters, all fire and misery, as they literally flew at their foes, blazing talons drawn.


Yet, they endured, as they plunged into the deep warp even deeper, and ever outwards. Slug-monsters emerged in the engine block, and the Magos aboard fought them with all his cold, logical might. Unfurling dozens of bladed mechanical appendages, the Magos flung himself at the slug-wolf things, cackling binary nonsense as he howled mechanically. He hacked down countless hundreds of the things, but their blood just clung to the walls, and sprouted more devils, which surrounded and befouled him, dragging him down, into their foul embrace.


The Gellar field failed. Like a foul gale, the walls began to shatter and bleed, as they came apart at the instant of failure.


Suddenly, they regained integrity, the ship reforming partially. The daemons eased off, and were forced back, at great cost. Only then did the defenders gaze outside. The fallen edifice. The fragment of reality, tumbling, warded, down into the upper heights of the deep warp. They had crashed inside it.


Unlight flooded the view screens, as they gazed across the strange realm, which loomed under and over them simultaneously. Though it crawled with runes, and was painful to even look upon, the crew realised it was, in fact, 'real'. Some of the more desperate/insane crew forced open access hatches, and crawled out into this mad wilderness, sobbing with hope and elation. The ground above them formed into multi-coloured horrors, and dragged them off, through the floor, into the warp. Hope was not a safe emotion to exude, evidently. The hatches were sealed soon after this.


And so, riding upon a diseased fragment of reality, the Black Ship plunged. Monsters assailed the defenders at random, plunging into the ship with no effort. Back to back, the Troopers and Sisters fought, battering back the devilish foes. They fired their pistols, until spent. They hacked with blades, until blunt and broken. They battled with fists, until their limbs were broken and useless. Then they fought with their teeth, and their bodies. Desperately, the underlings of the Magos sought to repair the destroyed Gellar field, as daemons lapped mere inches from their workspace, held back only by the wild, savage strength of the desperate Stormtroopers and Sororitas. To the great surprise of several defending Imperials, the surviving psykers, who still lived, fought back against the daemons, driving them back with sorcerous chants, and searing warp blasts. One such patient, the former occupant of cell #1, pulverised daemons and warp creatures, his vast psychic energies driving the monsters insane, and bursting their stolen bodies. It was said the psyker even saved the life of Medeline, boiling the blood of a tusked daemon in mail armour, even as it reared over her prone form.


Aided by their surviving psyker quarry, the defenders forced back the beasts, as the Gellar field shuddered, spluttering, into life once more.


As they tumbled, the various defenders began to age. Some grew older, rapidly. Some stayed the same age, while others began to get more youthful. Others were slowly devoured by the walls, wailing weakly, as the possessed metal sucked them in like quicksand.


They ate mutant and daemon flesh, they drank stagnant blood and thick, sentient fluids. In the immaterial realm, the defenders became something less than human, something more than mortal. The miserable and monstrous occupants of the vessel began to copulate and fornicate, as the years wore on. Their children were hoofed and twisted, bawling bundles of claws and malice. Yet still they tumbled.


None can possibly say how far, and how long, they tumbled, for both measurements are irrelevant in the warp. The ship fell past countless indefinable horrors, and wonders that would make a saint weep. Eventually they entered the final depth, the full doom.


[Record missing: Document descends into bizarre glyphs and runes, bursting into multi-hued flames, before forming a sea of spiders, and scuttling away, across the desk. Servitor guns forced to destroy record. Record resumes…]


-and they screamed "Nex! Notkor Tan!" and there was ice-fire in their hearts.


Yet, the ship, shorn of its reality raft, descended up and across, evading the lingering tendrils of the Nex. What happened in the realm cannot be explained. Nor should it. The Psyker from cell one purged the souls of dozens of his followers, boiling their souls, for fear that any trace of the Nex remained within them.


Yet, it seemed as though sanity began to reassert itself. Gravity began to express itself upon their limbs. Air began to have a taste, not just an emotion, once more. The walls were solid, for the most part. Each defender of the ship now had a single shape, unlike in the final depth.


Eventually, with a burst of mind-shattering horror, the Tersis emerged, heralded by a storm of bile and coloured lights.


They emerged in 999.M42, roughly a hundred years since becoming ensnared in the immaterial. It was a darkly changed vessel now though. Like a semi-living flesh-shark, the possessed vessel drifted, a hellscape made flesh. Arm in arm, the corrupted Medeline and the Wych-Lord of Cell #1, resided over a crew of twisted monsters, who worked the machineries of the vessel as if all was normal, their minds shattered and splintered.


This horrific ordeal was not unique to the Tersis. Vessels lost in the warp would frequently, throughout the Second Age of Strife, emerge from the warp, transformed into colossal warp-possessed beasts, which would then fall upon unsuspecting mortal worlds, attacking furiously with fangs and warpish flame.


These common occurrences would later be nicknamed 'hell-subs', due to the submerged nature of the twisted wrecks.


No matter the horrors the Second Age of Strife would soon bring to the galaxy, it was nothing compared with the numbing abomination of the deep warp. For, as the mariners of ancient legend would warn, there be monsters…


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Continued in Warhammer 60K: Age of Dusk